Many of your questions may be answered by reading the Adoptions page, or possibly in one of my Bird Care Blog articles. This page is for additional questions I have been asked. If you still cannot find an answer to your question, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
A: The most important thing to keep in mind is that keeping a pet parrot is nothing like keeping a pet dog! Birds are not mammals, they are not domesticated, and most are prey animals. Hand raising a baby bird is nearly equivalent to taking in and raising a wild baby bird by hand! They have millions of years of instincts telling them to be cautious to survive. So having a strong bond with a pet bird is very special because their trust and affection must be earned!
The key differences between a hand raised baby and a parent raised baby are fairly simple:
A parent-raised baby parrot with little human interaction before fledging will likely run screaming for their lives if you try to pick them up - and most will bite, hard. Their trust is very difficult to earn and most may never be happy kept as a single bird. They have a hard time seeing a human as anything other than a food-dispenser.
Handfed baby parrots are used to being held and handled so they know that being restrained is not a death sentence. A handfed baby may not always want to be picked up but will allow it with minimal to no fuss - and absolutely will not bite. And most importantly, hand-fed babies are nurtured by humans from a very young age so they have the ability to bond with us like they would with another bird.
Developing your own unique bond with your new hand-fed baby will take a little time, but it is exponentially easier than attempting with a parent-raised bird and is a very rewarding experience! I highly recommend learning and utilizing target training to develop a deeper understanding between you and your new baby parrot.
A: My babies all love to perch on your hand or shoulder, give kisses, will step-up automatically, and generally enjoy spending time and interacting with you. They will seek your attention and interaction, fly to you, and want to hang out on or around you at nearly all times - but petting is always on their terms.
Once your new baby has bonded with you they may allow or ask for head scritches when they want them. Whenever they are sleepy, such as in the evening or during a midday nap after a big meal, is the best time to see if they might indulge you! Most babies will come to enjoy petting if you spend at least a few hours a day interacting with them and they are kept as a single bird or one of a different species pair.
*Please only pet your parrot on its face and head area. Starting with petting their beak, then forehead feathers, and then the feathers nearest their beak or just behind their ears is usually most acceptable to a new bird. Petting a bird anywhere else on the body may stimulate unwanted hormonal behavior.
*Some species, such as Bourke's, do not preen one another socially and generally will never want to be petted. Some like to be cuddled and most will usually accept kisses on the beak. Since they are relatively inactive midday and are very quiet, tame Bourke's are ideal for people who work from home or live in apartments. They are more than happy to just sit on your shoulder while you work or go about the house.
A: Baby parrots may pick begin to up human speech from around three months to a year of age, or later, if at all. My babies are not with me for long enough to teach them to speak and there is absolutely no guarantee that any pet parrot will ever learn to talk, regardless of species or gender, even if they are kept as a single bird.
Teaching a bird to speak typically requires active training, by continuously repeating the words and phrases you want them to learn and speaking to your bird directly, as you would with any human person. It is very worthwhile to try and teach your new baby parrot to speak, and is a great way to spend quality time with them! Just don't be disappointed if they never do. :)
A: I do not teach specific tricks, however, all my babies will have gained a number of socialization skills by the time they are fully weaned, such as stepping up and the beginnings of flight recall.
As the babies fledge and are learning to perch I have them step up for their feedings and to come out of their cage each morning, so they learn to do this automatically. Adding a cue by saying “step up” every time they do it and offering a small food reward will easily teach this as a trick in your home, which can later be used to teach “wave”.
Once the babies are fledged they fly to me on their own when they want to be fed, which is the first step in flight-recall training. Flight recall must be continuously practiced and reinforced to be used successfully in the case of an emergency. If your parrot ever finds itself lost outside of your home, you may be able to call them back if they can still hear and/or see you. They will certainly be frightened in this situation, so food is an important motivator!
Lastly, when the babies are flying very well I call them to my hand and have them walk up my arm to my shoulder to be fed while perched there. This teaches them that a shoulder is another good spot to hang out, so they may be more inclined to become a shoulder bird. This can be reinforced by regularly giving them a treat while on your own shoulder at home.
A: While transporting your feathered fairy home, if you are able to be a passenger, keep them on your lap and talk to them sweetly in a reassuring voice. Most will be a bit nervous, but happy to interact with you and should step up and sit on your finger or hand from within their cage. Otherwise, I recommend seat belting the travel cage in to a back seat of your car, or the front seat if you can turn off the airbag, and perhaps raised up on some folded blankets so they can see out the window, though not required. Talking to them or playing soft music will help put them at ease for the ride home. Cold drafts can make a bird sick, so please do not run your air conditioner on full blast or keep the windows down - anything that causes a cold draft to blow over your bird.
It is best to have your baby's main cage fully set up at home before picking them up - with perches, swings, ladders, hanging chew toys, cuttlebone, mineral block, food and water cups, etc. You may pick them up to transfer them into the new cage, or lure them into it by removing their food and water from the travel cage, placing some spray millet or seed in the center of the new cage and opening the doors to both cages while facing one another.
On the first day, they will just be taking in their new surroundings. I recommend keeping them in their cage for the first 24 hours, but always interacting with them so they don't feel lonely and afraid. This time allows them to make a visual map of the layout of the room they are in, so when they do come out they will not blindly crash into walls, windows, or mirrors. Sit by the cage and talk quietly to your new baby, offer treats from your hand within the cage, and start to build trust using positive reinforcement! This is a great time to begin target training as well!
Windows and mirrors can be very dangerous for a bird that is unfamiliar with their environment, but they can be taught where these are if you walk around the room (first while your bird is in their cage) and tap your finger on all the windows and mirrors in the room in various places so they know they are solid. They will memorize the layout of the room this way even if they cannot actually see the glass. I recommend having static decals and/or sheer curtains for your windows, and sheer fabric over the mirrors if possible before letting your bird out for the first few times. Continue tapping on the windows and mirrors with your finger to keep reminding your bird(s) where they are.
Also consider where in the room your bird(s) might be able to perch safely when they come out to fly around. If there are no obvious spots for your baby to land they may panic and crash into a wall or other furniture. Usually, the tops of bookshelves, curtain rods, your TV, etc. will all be suitable landing spots for your bird, but you may not want them to get too comfortable in those places since they do poop often! Providing designated perches or play stands made of real wood branches will help make your bird feel more comfortable landing and perching, and helps keep them off things you don't want covered in poop!
I also highly recommend having your new feathered fairy step up onto your finger or hand to come out of the cage every time you open it to let them out. This is for the same reason you would teach a puppy to sit and stay when you open the front door to your home. It will teach them to wait for permission before flying blindly out of their cage opening, or possibly a forgotten open door or window of your house. Magnetic hands-free screen doors are also a good idea to install on any doors opening to the outside.
My last recommendation is to keep a millet spray on hand when your bird is flying freely, and train them to come back to you by calling their name or with a unique whistle or another sound. This is the first step of flight recall training, which was already started from the time they were still on formula and learning to fly, and must be continuously reinforced to be useful in the unfortunate case of an escaped bird. Once back on your hand after their fun flying around, you can also treat them on your shoulder and teach them to stay there while you go about your day.
Most importantly, never force your feathered fairy to do anything they don't want to! Always lure them into doing what you want (such as going back into the cage) with a reward. For example, if you know you will need to get you birds back into their cages at a specific time, take away their food a few hours before (~2 hours for little birds) and lure them back in by calling them to your hand with a millet spray, or put the millet spray back into the cage directly and wait for them to go in on their own. I reserve millet spray and nutriberries as training treats so they remain effective.